Royal & Imperial Clocks: Romantic & Scientific
Gallery 3 | 27 February - 18 August 2018
Time and money are often the two things that we worry most about in life and this exhibition reflects David Roche’s obsession with time and the stories on trading, upgrading and acquiring his extraordinary clock collection. This is the first ‘time’ his entire collection of timepieces (and what an extraordinary collection it is) have been brought together as an exhibition. Robert Reason, Senior Curator, and I have worked hard to display the clocks in an orderly fashion and we are very grateful to some of David’s friends that agreed to loan their own significant clocks from Melbourne and Sydney.
We humans have always recognised the passing of time and tried to measure and record its passing. It took approximately 6,000 years, from recognising seasons to plant, grow, harvest and fallow; to using shadows cast by obelisks and sundials for measuring daily hours; to Galileo’s observation of a swinging lamp; to Christian Huygens’ addition of a pendulum to a clock mechanism in 1656.
Clocks that attained precision time were greatly admired by the elite who wanted order and governance. The Courts of Europe had their own clockmakers and aristocracy emulated their demands for fine craftsmanship, beauty, creativity and mechanical innovation. Horology became a highly specialised skill for master craftsmen and innovators schooled by the Enlightenment. The medieval Guild system, however, requiring the division of skills between case and movement continued. Interpretations of classical mythology and expressions of current fashion or events were manufactured into clock cases of absolute beauty and exquisite quality. Hidden inside the decorative case, or proudly displayed through the case, is the science of keeping time – the marvellous movements that can surprise and delight.
David’s French and English clocks are from the late 17th century to the early 20th century and form an integral component of his opulent interior decoration at Fermoy House. Removed to a Gallery setting for the exhibition, each is admired for its merits, allowing a unique opportunity in Australia to view clocks of rarity and brilliance.
Today we have mobile phones that do everything, and we talk of nanoseconds, but are they measured in objects of beauty? You decide.